As Workers Blow Whistles, Bikers and Pedestrians Point Fingers

IMG_9973Kelsey Kudak

Today, Department of Transportation employees were once again out in full force, scolding cycling scofflaws.

Last week, as bike-share stations were installed, we noticed the swarm of yellow-jackets handing out bike-law pamphlets and chatting up cyclists as they waited at red lights. Were these bike-lane babysitters actually a deterrent to “Premium Rush” types? Well, one cyclist peddling the wrong way dismounted his bike and walked it across the intersection, and another turned off the avenue after a DOT worker blew her whistle at him.

Brothers Jessie and Robert Nelson both received pamphlets. The avid cyclists dismissed the idea, floated by the Post, that the workers might be a poor use of tax dollars. “I don’t think it’s a waste of money at all,” said Robert, 31. “Pedestrian safety as well as driver safety is pertinent and a very appropriate way to spend taxpayer money.”

In fact, Robert thought the pamphlets should be more widely available. “I’ve lived here since 2004 and have never seen this,” he said after receiving one.

IMG_9955 copyKelsey Kudak

Jessie, 30, insisted that despite their bad reputation, bikers aren’t the only culprits. “You have emergency vehicles parking in the bike lanes. You have homeless people pushing their carts in the bike lanes. You have cabbies pulling over in the bike lanes,” he said.

Lesa Westerman, an East Villager who teaches at P.S. 19 and uses her bike to run errands, agreed pedestrians were often in the way. “From a bicyclist’s point of view, they are a problem, and I’m oftentimes dinging my bell at people. New Yorkers will not wait on the curb. They’ll step off of the curb, and then they’re in your bike lane.”

That aggravation is compounded, she said, when delivery workers bike against traffic. “It is a problem, because when they’re coming the wrong way, they’re putting other bicyclists at risk,” she said. “Often, they have power packs and they’re speeding up to 20 miles per hour in the wrong direction. It really causes a problem. I’ve actually seen people hit.”

Outside of Motorino, three delivery men admitted that they didn’t always follow bike laws (at least one had been ticketed), but said the Department of Transportation workers were a positive influence.

“When the kids leave from school they always walk into the street and it’s difficult to ride,” said Marco Sánchez, 19, who said the workers were helping both biker and pedestrian safety. “And sometimes we have to use the street to go around parked cars.”

All three workers said it was about making clients happy. “When there aren’t any cars I go through a red light,” admitted Luis Alberto Casades, 21. “I earn more tips.”

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“And customers get mad if the pizza doesn’t get there fast enough,” noted Mr. Sánchez. “They insult us.”

The DOT workers seem to be making a difference for the moment, but will they manage to permanently dissuade scofflaw cyclists? (According to the Post, they’ll be gone come October). Pamela Hall thought not. The midtown resident said she had seen pedestrians struck while on the sidewalk, and believed bikers should face the same level of accountability as motorists. But she wasn’t holding her breath for it to happen.

“It’s New York,” she said. “What do we all do if there is nobody around? We go the wrong way. We walk in the street. We cross against the light.”